What is sometimes forgotten with the passing of time and against the seminal influence of Woodstock is that Creedence Clearwater Revival were one of the few bands to appear at the festival that had already achieved significant success on the Billboard charts. Truth is that there are some that do not even know about the band’s forgotten Woodstock performance shortly after midnight on 17 August 1969. The reason, of course, is that CCR were not in the movie or the album that came out in the wake of Woodstock.
Creedence’s hour-long set was like a greatest hits album, with ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’ both having reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100. As they walked on stage at Woodstock, just after midnight on Saturday, their current single, ‘Green River’ was at No.15, it’s third week on the U.S. chart; it would be their third single to stall at No.2. As John Fogerty later said, “By the time we got to Woodstock, I felt we were the number one band. Assuming that The Beatles were God, I thought that we were the next thing under them.”
To the band, Woodstock must have seemed like – just another festival, as it did at the time to so many of the artists. In the summer of 1969 CCR had already played the Newport Festival in California, the Denver and the Atlanta festivals, along with the Atlantic City Festival. Given the fact that they were just about the hottest band on the charts every promoter wanted them at the top, or close to the top, of the bill.
Unlike so many of the bands at Woodstock CCR went on stage fairly closed to their scheduled midnight slot, although they were supposed to be in a prime Saturday evening slot. According to John Fogerty, ” We were supposed to be in the prime spot for that evening. The Dead went on and pulled their usual shenanigans.”–
Their hour-long set started at half past midnight on Sunday 17 August and kicked off with the perfect opener, ‘Born On The Bayou’. They followed it with ‘Green River’ and then a cover of Wilson Pickett’s ‘Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)’, from their debut album, after which it was ‘Commotion’, ‘Bootleg’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’
They played their current single and their two previous big hits and the other songs in the set, to this point, very much as they were on record. As their set progressed they stretched their songs set into longer, more improvised, rock songs, which was their normal way of playing them.‘I Put A Spell On You’ stretched the 5 minute single to almost twice its length, while ‘Keep On Chooglin’’ ran for close to ten minutes. ‘Suzie Q’, the Dale Hawkins classic had been their first hit and on the album it ran for 8 minutes; for their encore they kept it rocking for even longer.
John Fogerty later said, “I could never put my finger on what it was, but we were considered outsiders in our own town.” Maybe they were outsiders in San Francisco but they were at the top of their game when they played Woodstock. John Fogerty’s unique voice and great song writing had come together as a perfect combination just at the right time.
Why were they not on the film? Most likely their record company at the time was unwilling to co-operate. Did it affect their career? Well it would have done them no harm on the world stage to have had all that additional exposure. Like ‘Green River’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’, both ‘Travellin’ Band’ and ‘Lookin’ out My Back Door’ made No.2 on the Billboard chart. They really were one of the unluckiest bands bands that could never break through to achieve the coveted top spot on the America singles chart, although they did top the charts in Britain with ‘Bad Moon Rising’. Their album, Green River came out a month after Woodstock and it topped the charts for four weeks, as did Cosmo’s Factory following year – it had a nine-week run at No.1. The fact is CCR were huge…but they might well have been even bigger.
Follow the Creedence Clearwater Revival Best Of playlist for more classic CCR hits.